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Thread: Wellington Take-offs

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    Default Wellington Take-offs

    In July 1942 at Breighton, Yorks. I watched 460 (RAAF) Squadron's Wellington IVs (Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp R1830-S3C4G) take off on an operation. I was very surprised that as each aircraft rolled round onto the runway it braked and applied full power until the tail rose to flying position before releasing the brakes.

    I have never heard of this with any other large aircraft and the most likely reason I can think of is the lower power of the Twin Wasps compared withe the Hercules fitted to Wellington IIIs at that time. The quoted top speed of the Mk. IV was 26 mph less than the Mk. III and it also carried less armament.

    Did any other large aircraft use this procedure ?.

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    Walter,
    Seems very strange behaviour to me!! Early Wellingtons (Mk.I family with Bristol Pegasus engines) were lower-powered than the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp, and the Hercules powered aircraft, and I doubt very much that they tried pulling stunts like that! Actually I imagine that many types of aircraft with tailwheel undercarriage with a reasonable amount of power could lift their tail with prop wash alone, but at low speeds on the ground it would probably be pretty risky as overbalancing with little real elevator control could end in an embarrassing nose over and a probable court of enquiry where the pilot would have to explain why he had wrecked two perfectly good propellers and also shock loaded two expensive engines for no good cause. I imagine that some station, or squadron commander had a brilliant idea to shorten take off runs, but it would almost certainly run counter to the advice in pilot's notes. I do not have the notes for the Mk.IV Wellington however - perhaps they were different in this respect to all the rest, or maybe they were loaded to some special configuration for some reason.
    David D

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    I just read a passage in No Prouder Place that describes this technique being used for an underpowered plane on a short runway. The pilot being quoted was referring to a Manchester when he said he started as far back on the runway as he could get and "held her on the brakes to build up maximum power, and then let go." (p41 quoting pilot W.J "Mike" Lewis, 207 Sqn.)
    David

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    Default Wellington Take-offs

    Many thanks dfuller & David D,

    It is interesting about the Manchester, I wonder how much of a load it was carrying. It does show that did happen other than with 460 Squadron.

    David D's observations are probably quite valid, but I imagine that the the participants had weighed up the pros and cons before deciding on this method, given that they would not have had a lot of choice about the load being carried and the runway length available. The runways at Breighton were all lengthened from the original (opened January 1942), but I think it would be after the time I witnessed the squadron take-offs.

    Whoops!-after checking, I find that the above took place in the latter half of August 1942, not July as I said.

    Walter

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    Walter,
    The Pilot's Notes for the Mk II Lancaster (Bristol Hercules VI or XVI engines) states for take-off
    "Open the throttles to about 2,000 rpm against the brakes, then release the brakes and open throttles fully with the starboard slightly ahead". Elsewhere take -off revs are quoted as 2,800 rpm so it would appear that there was an awful lot of power on before the brakes were released.
    The procedure for the Merlin engined Lanc is different but the final sentence says,
    "This will give as good a take off as taking off against the brakes, and renders it easier to correct swing."
    It would appear therefore that taking off against the brakes was not confined to Wellingtons and quite probably occured among most heavy bomber squadrons.
    Best Wishes,
    Bill

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    In Ernest K.Gann's magnificent book "Fate Is The Hunter", he describes using this technique with the deplorable C-87. He concluded that it did not give any actual advantage, but that an apparent initial surge (or, in the case of the C-87, lurch) did provide a psychological boost to the pilot.

    As an ex-aerodynamicist, I would consider it beneficial, but only marginally so. It means that the aircraft will have additional acceleration during the time otherwise taken for the engines to wind up to maximum power, but (unless this was very long) only a small amount of distance would be covered in this time, and hence only a very small difference in distance between the two techniques. Admittedly, every little would help in marginal cases, and the the benefits would also be seen in terms of time to minimum safety speed. The psychological benefits should not be dismissed.

    However, holding until the tail rises does seem a little excessive.

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    My father once described a ‘hot’ takeoff under fire. The aircraft was a heavily loaded C-47, the location was Burma in 1944 on a rough airstrip. The pilot built up speed taxiing and scared the beejeebers out of everyone on board by wheeling ‘round on to the ragged edge of the end of the runway as he opened the throttles wide. The acceleration, thanks to the extra speed from the pilot’s manoeuvre, was good enough to get them airborne a few yards earlier than normal and they made it to safety.

    The point he made when telling the tale was that they didn’t run up the revs against the brakes as they would normally. From what he said then and on other occasions I believe it was standard practice to use this 'straining at the bit' technique to it's maximum, the exception being when they towed gliders.


    Bruce

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    Default Wellington Take-offs

    Thanks to Bill, Graham and Bruce for their contributions.

    It seems that although holding on the brakes for very high revs was not uncommon, the 460 Squadron's method was quite extreme. Even at 100 or so yards away the noise from the Twin Wasps was deafening.

    Best wishes for the New Year to all,

    Walter

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